Stocking your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry with nutritious foods starts with making healthy choices in the grocery store. Grocery shopping for healthy foods can be a daunting task because of the thousands of food items available. At the grocery store, it is important to fill your shopping cart with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and seeds. This article along with my grocery list will assist you in navigating the grocery store and choosing the healthy plant-based foods.
1) Focus on the produce section
The produce section is the first area that you will encounter in the grocery store and is where you should spend the majority of your time shopping. In this section, select fresh fruits and vegetables that are appealing to you and don’t be afraid to try something new. It is important to choose produce that have rich and vibrant colors such as dark green, purple, red, yellow, and orange. Each color offers different phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Selecting produce that’s in season can help you save some money.
2) There’s nothing wrong with frozen
The frozen section can be a life saver for someone looking for convenience since these foods can be stored in the freezer for extended periods of time. Frozen fruit and vegetables are picked and frozen as soon as they’re ripe making them just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. Frozen produce also has cost saving benefits since they are usually cheaper than fresh produce. Frozen vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, carrots, and peppers are great for steaming and frozen fruit are great additions to smoothies.
3) Make fiber a priority
In my opinion fiber is the #1 nutrient that should be considered when choosing foods. Some of the highest sources of fiber are legumes. Legumes include beans, lentils, soy beans, chickpeas, and peas. In addition to high fiber, legumes are high in protein, phytonutrients and contain no cholesterol or fat. Making legumes a main component in your daily meals is associated with reducing diabetes, hypertension, obesity, colorectal cancer, and hyperlipidemia.
4) Choose whole grains instead of refined grains
As we continue through the grocery store, the next food items we can look at are grains. Foods that are considered grains include bread, rice, oats, quinoa, and cereal. The most important considered to choosing grains is the make sure they are not refined, which can be tricky. So what are refined grains? First lets breakdown the three sections of a grain (bran, endosperm, and germ). The bran is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain that protects it and contains B-vitamins and trace minerals. The endosperm is the middle layer of the grain that contains mostly starch. The germ is the small nutrient-rich core of the grain that contains fat soluble vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy fats. During the refining process the bran and germ are removed from the grain to lengthen shelf life. This process severely diminishes the nutritional profile of the grain. After the refining process about 75% of vitamins and minerals, 90% of fiber, and 95% of phytonutrients are lost. Even though refined grains are often enriched with B vitamins; fiber, phytonutrients, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, etc. are not added back. Examples of refined grains include white rice, white bread, honey wheat bread, wheat bread, multi-grain bread, white flour, and white pasta noodles. Instead of those refined grains choose whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, 100% whole wheat bread, and whole wheat noodles.
5) Try some plant-based dairy
Approximately 65% of the human population is lactose intolerant. This is a condition where the body lacks the enzyme lactase that breaks down lactose. People who are lactose intolerance will often experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach aches, bloating, and diarrhea after drinking cow’s milk. Non-dairy milk is an excellent replacement that doesn’t contain lactose. Not only do plant-based milk offer all of the vitamins and minerals that are found in cow’s milk, they are also lower in calories, hormone free, and have a longer shelf life. There’s also a large variety to choose from such as almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk. You should also be on the lookout for new yogurt and ice cream made from plant-based milks.
6) Add some healthy fats
As we’re concluding our grocery shopping, let’s not forget to pick up some nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are important components of a healthy diet because they provide healthy fats, fiber, fat soluble vitamins, and minerals. Peanuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pistachios, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and Brazil nuts are examples to choose from. Walnuts and flaxseeds in particular contain omega-3 fatty acids which helps fight inflammation, improve brain function, and nourish red blood cells. There have been numerous studies that have linked increased nut and seed intake with reduced risks of heart disease and diabetes.